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Egyptian Art                           113
never completely succeeded in eliminating the innovations in
art and language which the revolutionary period had introduced.
Further, it would be a serious mistake to maintain that the
academic nature of Egyptian art precluded imagination and
variety in its manifestations. Its technique was not employed
only in the service of gods and dead men; it was at the dis-
posal of the living, to give beauty to the objects of everyday use.
This brings us to the problem of the relation between beauty
and utility. From the very first, the principle of the Egyptian
artist was not art for art's sake, but the appeal of beauty in
everyday life. We may be sure that he never dreamed of creating
his elegant and graceful works for the special honour of a deity
or an illustrious corpse. The reason why he offered such things
to the mysterious powers which he wished to placate was that
he imagined them to have tastes like those of human beings, and
human beings, in those days, had learned how to fashion their
household objects in forms corresponding to a particular sensi-
bility which we call aesthetic.
It is a remarkable fact that in every period of Egyptian
civilization the shapes and materials of articles of all kinds under-
went changes corresponding to unmistakable waves of fashion.
Bead necklaces, pottery, and seal designs display such uniformity
in these changes that it is usually possible to fix their date. It
was, of course, the seat of the court, with its royal workshops,
which gave the lead. The product of Memphis or Thebes
possessed, in the eyes of an inhabitant of the Nile valley, the
cachet of an article 'made in Paris' to-day. But a practised eye
is needed at this point to distinguish the various influences at
work. Natural forms, such as the lotus flower, inspired the
artists who designed drinking-cups and bowls, vases, and decora-
tive schemes of various kinds. Subjects like that of the maiden
bearing a basket laden with food gave rise to the graceful
variants to be seen on cosmetic boxes. A girl swimming pro-
vided the design for spoons whose elegant form has rarely been
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